"Church of the Firsts"

  • How the United Church of Christ is the “Church of the Firsts”


  • Forebears of the UCC were the first mainline church to take a public stand against slavery, in the year 1700.
  • We were the first predominantly Euro-American church to ordain an African American as a minister — Lemuel Haynes in 1785.
  • We were the first to pioneer mass media to communicate its ideas (The Herald of Gospel Liberty, 1808, America’s earliest religious periodical).
  • In 1810, we organized the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first foreign missionary agency in North America.


  •  We were the church that initiated the first civil rights case in the United States with the defense of the Amistad captives in 1839, and supported their case to the Supreme Court, which eventually led to their freedom.
  • 1841- American Missionary Association (forerunner of Homeland Ministries) formed as first domestic mission effort emphasizing the education of freed slaves.


  •  We ordained the first woman to ministry, Antoinette Blackwell, in 1853.


  •  We were among the first to establish homes for orphaned children — like Bethany Children’s Home and Hoffman Home, both in Pennsylvania, which now are places for troubled young people and their families.


  • We founded some of America’s premier colleges (Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Elon, UC Berkeley and Elmhurst); hundreds of schools to educate freed slaves after the Civil War; and African-American colleges (Fisk, Taledega, Huston-Tillotson).


  • Noted theologian and pastor Reinhold Niebuhr composed the Serenity Prayer: “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”


  • As a denomination, we were on the front lines of racial desegregation and, in 1964, challenged the Federal Communications Commission, in a landmark case; demanding people of color receive access to and be seen on the televised airwaves. This case would ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • 1964- First church to openly and publicly support civil rights legislation.


  • 1970’s- First church to publicly support Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers.


  • We ordained the first openly gay person, William Johnson, in 1972.


  • 1973- Sexual identity not a bar to ordination.


  • 1985- Gays/Lesbians can participate in the full life and ministry of church.


  • November 2004, UCC kicks off identity campaign: God Is Still Speaking, an ambitious first of its kind program “equipping local church leaders to welcome newcomers into the worship, fellowship and mission life of their congregations.”

July 4, 2005- General Synod 25 overwhelmingly passes a resolution in support of equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of gender. It marks the first time that one of the nation’s mainline churches has expressed support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.


© 2019 Pilgrim - St. Luke's United Church of Christ
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community